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Buying Organic Produce -
When it's Most Important

Getting the most from your organic dollars.

We know organic produce is better for us and better for the environment, but there are times that buying non-organic can suffice.

Sometimes the selection of organic fruits and vegetables available to us locally is slim. Perhaps you even live where there is no farmer's market, or like mine, your market closes for almost 6 months during the winter months. That leaves us buying produce wherever we can, organic or not.

But we can still be working to lessen the number of toxins we ingest by choosing non-organic produce selectively. Not all produce carries the same accumulation of pesticides, and knowing the difference is critical.

In comes the Environmental Working Group.

Perhaps you've heard of them or the "dirty dozen" they're making famous. They are a non-profit organization devoted to protecting public health through both research and better legislation.

Through their extensive research and compilation of the Department of Agriculture's and the Food and Drug Administration's test results, they've uncovered both the produce with the highest levels of pesticide contamination and the lowest. It's a list worth memorizing or carrying with you.

To quote from the EWG website: "EWG's computer analysis found that consumers could cut their pesticide exposure by almost 90 percent by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated instead."

90% reduction - that's pretty impressive! So even if organic produce isn't available to you or is outside your budget, you can reduce your exposure to pesticide residues just by knowing which fruits and vegetables are "consistently clean" even when grown non-organically.

The following information is from the EWG's list for 2012, the most current available as of this writing. But check out their new, more user-friendly site at for more information on the quality of our consumer products.


Dirty Dozen
(buy organic):

Sweet bell peppers
Nectarines, imported
Blueberries, domestic

Consistently Clean
(can buy non-organic):

Sweet corn
Peas, sweet
Cantaloupe, domestic
Sweet potatoes

You can print this page and cut out the above box. It will easily fit in a wallet or pocket for easy reference.

Get help finding organic produce and local farmers' markets in your area, using a search tool provided by The Natural Resources Defense Council. Using this tool, I found a farmer's market in my area that I hadn't known about.

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